May 21, 2014
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue wrestler Cashé Quiroga has been named a 2014 recipient of the prestigious National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award, honoring the Boilermaker for overcoming great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. Quiroga, who recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision, will be recognized at the N4A National Convention in Orlando, Fla., on June 7.
Quiroga is the fourth Purdue student-athlete to receive the N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award, joining fellow wrestler Akif Eren (2011), Kevin Hough (1993, men's golf) and John Reeves (1998, football) as recipients.
The four-year letterwinner has experienced the highs and lows of being a student-athlete. As an unseeded true freshman, Quiroga earned All-America honors at 125 pounds, a feat only five other Boilermaker grapplers had ever accomplished. He qualified for a second NCAA appearance as a redshirt sophomore, but didn't get on the podium. The next year he didn't even qualify.
Quiroga met some of the nation's toughest competition in the middle of the mat on a weekly basis, but it was the trials and tribulations off the mat that loomed the heaviest in the opposing corner.
For years, Quiroga has dealt with the horrors of drug abuse amongst his immediate family. Not only was he balancing an academic workload along with high wrestling goals, but he was learning how to cope with a wide-range of emotions. He knew that at any moment his phone could ring and he had to be ready for what he was about to hear.
One would think being 65 miles from home would allow Quiroga to mentally escape from the daily nightmare the drug abuse was exerting on him, but it wasn't. His four younger siblings were immersed right in the middle of it. They saw their big brother as their rock and when he'd make the drive home to Indianapolis, they didn't want to see him go.
The internal struggle Quiroga fought, "Do I stay at Purdue or do I go home, but if I go home, what sort of an example am I setting?" only added to the emotions he had to cope with. It was hard and wrestling was his release.
"There was a lot of pent up anger with stuff that was going on," Quiroga said. "Some days I would go in [to practice] and the coaches would tell me that I had to calm down. It definitely was a good release to be able to go in there and go hard and get it all out."
Early in the summer between his redshirt sophomore and junior seasons while attending a wrestling camp, Quiroga felt a few pains in his hip. He didn't think much of it until he woke up the next morning drenched in sweat, unable to move. Everything the doctors tested him for came back negative and he was sent home. One day of gut-wrenching pain turned into two, then three. Finally, the hospital admitted him and two days later it was discovered he had a severe staph infection in his blood stream.
The infection was so severe that the prognosis delivered by the doctors was bleak; "We hope that he will be able to recover and walk."
"When the doctor first said that stuff to me, it was...my stomach dropped, my heart dropped," Quiroga said. "In the back of my head, I knew I'd be fine. I knew it wasn't the end for me."
Quiroga spent the rest of the summer recovering at home learning how to walk while warding off future infections with heavy-duty antibiotics. Not to mention, he was doing all of this amongst the multitude of stresses exerted on the family by way of drug abuse. The end of summer couldn't come fast enough.
Five months after contracting staph, Quiroga was finally able to get back out on the mat, but it wasn't the same. He was plagued by injury after injury, proving that his body was not as resilient as it once was. Quiroga was in a dark place and there didn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
It's when all seems lost that things take a turn for the better.
As his final season at Purdue got underway, the demons Quiroga had fought for years were by no means gone, but they subsided enough to allow him to obtain what had always been the ultimate goal.
Knowing that the 2013-14 season was going to be his last, a fire was ignited. Quiroga went from unranked to one of the nation's top-10 133-pounders. He was relentless offensively with 10 victories resulting in bonus points. Along the way to an 18-8 record, he upended eight nationally ranked opponents, placed third at the Big Ten Championships and finished just one match shy of earning his second All-America honor.
A wrestler isn't satisfied with his performance unless he comes home with a title. Did the season end the way Quiroga wanted it to? He'll tell you no, of course not, but two months after the NCAA Championships he finally had the opportunity to bask in the personal satisfaction of all that he has conquered. Thanks to the unconditional support from his family, coaches and teammates, Quiroga achieved his greatest accomplishment: college graduate.
About the N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award: The N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award is intended to honor student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic, and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. These young men and women may not be the best athletes or students, and therefore may not have been recognized by other organizations or awards. Nonetheless, they have persevered and made significant personal strides toward success. These are the students who benefit most from academic athletic advisement programs and represent our motivation and sense of satisfaction. We recognize them for their achievements with the N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. The common thread for all the recipients of this award is motivation or drive to succeed and the work ethic that overcomes difficult situations. To read the Wilma Glodean Rudolph story, please click here.